(source: the book Neiman Marcus MARCH 2007, p40-49) THE PROFILE Fade to White The light and bright Marc Jacobs BY KEVIN SESSUMS Dutch model Iekeliene is waiting for designer Marc Jacobs to arrive at a photo studio that hovers above Manhattan's skyline. She pronounces her name for me ("Ek-ah-leeee-na") as she punches in a hipper selection on the sound system. She is wearing a pair of the designer's harem pants that - Jacobs confides, having just rushed in from his afternoon workout at the gym - were inspired by Halston. "Ik-eh-lee-na!" the photographer's assistant calls, approximating the correct pronunciation. She lopes back in the front of the camera to position herself inside a starkly rendered black-and-white pastoral scene of clouds, a tree, a couple of birds, and a cutout creature that looks a lot like one of Jacobs' two dogs, Alfred and Daisy, the latter named for F. Scott Fitzgerald's character Daisy Buchanan from his novel The Great Gatsby. "But she doesn't have a bark like the sound of money," Jacobs jokes, paraphrasing Gatsby's famous words. "Hers is more like the bark of terror-a low, mean sound," he says, settling into a sofa, tucking one of his sneakers beneath him. He attempts to mimic the sound to demonstrate its scariness but fails. At this point in his career, Jacobs can't help it: There are now forever notes of his sweetness in his worldly timbre. This sweetness mixed with his fierce work ethic has certainly contributed to his success-and it's a polarity that is evident in his lifestyle, as well. He has happily resided in Paris for the last 10 years while still maintaining a home in New York City. "If I'm not doing anything for five minutes in New York, I feel like a failure. I start to ask myself, 'Why am I not having dinner with someone? Why am I not going to the theater or a museum?' It's all about 'Why am I not?' But in Paris, if I have five minutes to myself, I feel like, well, a success. I love having those moments in my living room, lolling around with my dogs and books and art. Paris is all about the luxury of doing nothing gorgeously." His appreciation for all that is gorgeous is reflected in the only addiction other than cigarettes left in his life: collecting temporary art. Among his current favorite artists are John Currin, Rachel Feinstein, Elizabeth Peyton, and Ed Ruscha. He confesses that a recurring dream of his is living in a house with the walls lined in portraits. "Even Ed's works are portraits of words," he insists. "I see an image when I look at those words, and for me, they evoke certain people." He lets the syllables form in his mouth, slowly spilling forth like smoke from cigarette he's longing to light up. "Peach," he says, elongating the sound. "Cherish. Vanish. Heaven. They are all quite good words. Lots of round letters," he concludes, appreciating shape wherever he can find it. Jacobs' favorite artist, when pressed, is Richard Prince, who-as Andy Warhol before him and many fashion designers at work today-creates art through appropriation. Prince, like Jacobs, has honed this process to a rarified degree. "I think appropriation is just contemporary choice-making. It's being honest. So much of what I think of as modern and cool is just that: honest. It is certainly not about the ivory-tower designer who says, 'I created this. I invented that. I am the genius behind this.' I don't like that at all." Most recently, he and his design team have been studying the work of Paul Poiret, a popular fashion designer of the early 1900s, in the basement of the Costume institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Poiret will be the subject of the Institute's upcoming exhibit, and just as he broke from the soft shades of Edwardian style to issue a new fashion edict of vibrant primary colors, Jacobs is toying with the same idea for a transition between his spring and fall collections. "We always look at things we like," he notes, crediting his carefully chosen collaborators for much of his own acclaim. "My role sometimes is to insist we look at things we don't like because that is where the newness will happen. What was so incredible about Poiret-and what I respond to in his work, more than any piece of clothing-was his creation of an aesthetic world, once that was nonaspirational. I have surrounded myself with people who have similar aesthetic. We each have input. And if any one of these contributions were missing, we couldn't have the same results. I'm not paternal or a director. I really do feel like an equal part in the whole machine. I don't care for the concept of hierarchy. I mean, my name is on the door-I am aware of that-but it's just a name. On a door." His humbleness belies the fact that his door has opened up the world to a new definition of cool, a place where fashion embraces both old and new, sweetness and edginess, words and visions. It's a magical scene. Kevin Sessums has recently published his memoir, Mississippi Sissy (St. Martin's Press), and writes for Allure.